Explore the Scioto Mile with Your Kids on the Smart Circuit

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Explore the Scioto Mile with your family by riding Smart Circuit, Ohio’s first self-driving shuttle! You can be a part of the start of a new era of mobility innovation in Central Ohio!

Thank you to Smart Columbus for sponsoring this post!

smart columbus experience center building

Spend a Day on the Scioto Mile with your Family By Riding the Smart Circuit:

Columbus is home to Ohio’s first self driving shuttle! Sound scary? I’ll admit I was a little bit nervous – especially just a few weeks after having been in a car accident – to take my 4 year old on a self-driving vehicle! But when I found out that all of the vehicles are manned by an attendant who can step in at any time, my fear subsided!

Turns out the majority of vehicle accidents are caused by user error! The hope is that one day, self driving vehicles, though they may sound scary to us now, will actually reduce accidents and save lives.

What is the Smart Circuit?

Columbus is home base to a project called Smart Circuit, a self-driving shuttle. It’s the first of its kind in Ohio and it’s short route is 1.5 miles, has 4 stops, and takes about 15 minutes to complete. The shuttle is free to ride and operates from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM every day.

riding the smart circuit columbus, ohio

campfire seating inside the smart circuit

Funded through October, the project has two major goals. One is to provide data and information to engineers, researchers and policymakers from Smart Columbus, DriveOhio and The Ohio State University as they decide how self-driving technology can be further used around Ohio. The second goal is to offer us, the general public, a hands-on experience with self-driving technology. Think of this as an educational project- for all of us!

How does the Smart Circuit work?

I’m not going to pretend to understand the technology that makes the Smart Circuit shuttle work. But I had lots of questions like  “how does it know where it’s going?” “How does it know when to stop?” and “How does it know when everyone has boarded the vehicle?” 

The shuttle uses sensors and intelligent software with a 360 degree view to help the vehicle know where it is, what direction to go and when to stop. If someone or something runs into the street, the shuttle can tell and knows to stop. And don’t worry, the attendant tells the shuttle when to pull away from each stop. It’s not going to start going before you’re safely in the vehicle! 

Is the Smart Circuit Safe for Kids?

You might also be wondering, as I did, about safety for children.

attendant in the smart circuit, columbus, ohio

The first thing that might set your mind at ease is that there is a vehicle attendant in each shuttle who can take control at any time. While I was riding, we encountered a truck parked in a space where the Smart Circuit was supposed to make a full u-turn but there wasn’t enough room. The attendant stepped in and made the turn. 

Secondly, the vehicle goes at a max speed of 25 miles per hour. There are 4 seats in the back that are in a “campfire” configuration.

mom and son riding the smart circuit

You will need to follow the same vehicle safety guidelines that you follow in your own car. Children under 4 are required to have a car seat on the Smart Circuit.  I would recommend doing this with children who need a booster seat or no seat at all for ease of transport!

Where can I get on the Smart Circuit?

smart circuit stop

The Smart Circuit has 4 stops: COSI, National Veterans Memorial and Museum, Bicentennial Park and Smart Columbus Experience Center. There is a sign at each stop letting you know where to wait for the shuttle. There are three shuttles on the route and your wait time in between shuttles is around 10 minutes. View the route here.

What is there to do on the Scioto Mile?

So now that we’ve got all of the technical questions out of the way, I’m hoping you’ve come to see the Smart Circuit Shuttle in the same way I did: as an experience. The Smart Circuit exists to help us learn about self-driving technology and to experience it ourselves. We are the first city in Ohio to have access to this kind of experience and it will certainly be a part of our children’s lives in the future!

Why not take this opportunity to be “a part of the start” and be one of the first people in our state to have this experience? I’m proposing you make a day of it!

boy running on the scioto mile

8 Family Friendly Things to do Around the Scioto Mile:

Here are 8 family-friendly things to do around the Scioto Mile that enable you to take your kids on the Smart Circuit as part of your transportation! Pick a few of these stops that make sense for your family and give it a try!

1. COSI

cosi

I recommend starting at COSI for your trip on the Smart Circuit! There is an underground parking garage where you can park and if you visit COSI you can have your parking validated. Parking is $5 for COSI members and $6 for the general public if you get your ticket stamped at the COSI box office. Otherwise parking is $6 for the first 3 hours and $2 for each additional hour up to $15. 

COSI (Center Of Science and Industry) offers fun and educational experiences for all ages! From the little kidspace for toddlers to all of the amazing regular science exhibits, rotating exhibits and the American Museum of Natural History Dinosaur Gallery there is truly something for everyone! 

2. Dorrian Green

dorrian green park outside cosi

Don’t have time for a full on visit to COSI? Check out the park and playground area just outside of COSI. There are several play structures and small fountains during the summer! Outside of COSI there are also a couple of dinosaur displays that can be seen without entering COSI.

3. Smart Columbus Experience Center

inside the smart columbus experience center

The Smart Columbus Experience Center is open for you to stop in and learn about the future of transportation! There are touch screens with games that can be played (also look for these around the Short North!) and vehicles to explore. If you are interested in purchasing an electric vehicle you can also come to The Smart Columbus Experience Center to test drive vehicles in a no-pressure situation! 

Smart Columbus Experience Center

4. Bicentennial Park

bicentennial park in Columbus Ohio with holiday lights

Bicentennial Park is a great hang out space for families! During the summer, kids can play in the fountains and during the holiday season, the park is decked out with lights! Taking the Smart Circuit around its route is a great way to see the holiday lights all throughout the Scioto Mile! 

5. Veterans Memorial and Museum

We have yet to visit the newly opened Veterans Memorial and Museum, but this would be a great stop for older kids and adult family members. I’ve got it on good report that you should allow a couple of hours to visit the museum (and maybe NOT tack it on to a visit to COSI!) 😉 

6. Cultural Arts Center

Cultural Arts Center in Columbus, Ohio

Stop by the Cultural Arts Center to visit one of the art galleries. Admission is free. Adults can take classes here or join in one of the Conversations and Coffee talks!

7. The Promenade

promenade on the scioto mile

The Scioto Mile encompasses 175 acres of parkland and includes bikeways, walking paths and 9 parks! The Promenade on the Scioto Mile is a walkway along the river that offers stunning views of downtown and swings and benches for relaxing.

swing on the Scioto Mile promenade

8. Columbus Commons 

Columbus Commons at night

Just a short walk from Bicentennial Park, Columbus Commons is another great spot to view holiday lights or to play in the summer! Columbus Commons is home to many free events during the spring through fall and is a large green space to let your kids run out all that energy no matter what time of year!


After visiting the Smart Columbus Experience Center and taking a ride on the shuttle, my interest is piqued! I’m curious to see how transportation will change in my kids’ life time. 

What about you? Will you take your kids on the Smart Circuit this year?

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scioto mile promenade

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Top 10 Things to do with Kids in Columbus, Ohio

ICYMI: Top 10 Things to do with Kids in Columbus, Ohio


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